A Cabin, An Alpaca Farm and A Book Review

Barefoot Cabin Banner Elk, NC Elevation 4200'

Barefoot Cabin
Banner Elk, NC
Elevation 4200′

I’ve had some exciting opportunities come my way for marketing Through The Eyes Of Grace.  As you may or may not know, my husband and I have purchased a cabin in Banner Elk, NC. It is exactly where we have always wanted to own property, and the cabin is even better than we had dreamed. While we were there in June we took our grandchildren to Apple Hill Farm which is only 5 miles from our front door. The photo at the top of my blog is all 5 of them staring at the alpacas. It is a great place–they raise Alpacas, Llamas, Donkeys, Goats, Sheep, Horses, Pigs, Chickens, and much more. You can even buy skeins of Alpaca wool to knit or crochet the softest scarves and blankets ever! Anyway, the owner found out about my book, purchased a copy, started reading it and asked if she could sell it in their store. 🙂 Oh my, this takes a bit getting used to. She even asked me to sign the three copies she purchased. What an amazing privilege.

Next, my publisher called to see if I would be available for a television interview to talk about my book. I had to think about it for one second! Of course, I said yes, even though the thought of being on TV is way out of my comfort zone. I will adjust, I’m sure.

What I would really like to figure out is how to set up a blog tour of my book. If any of you have any information that would help me find this information, I would be grateful. 

Finally, I want to review a book I recently read. It was given to me because it reminded my friend of Through The Eyes Of Grace.

Soft As Steel

Book Title:      Soft Like Steel

Author:           Barbara Malek

Review:           Soft As Steel is the true story of the author’s grandmother. She discovered her story by reading her grandmother’s journals. In them she finds out how remarkable a woman she was. She endured great hardship as a young, Mennonite wife, not only because of the Great Depression sweeping the nation in the 1930’s, but because of the selfishness and sin of her husband. Time after time he disappoints and hurts her, but she devotes herself to believing the best, until one day she has a breakthrough…You’ll have to read the book yourself to see what happens. You may also like to know that this marriage produced 9 children in spite of all the trouble. And they all grew up to have a close relationship with each other and with their own spouse and children. I couldn’t put this book down, and I finished it in a couple of sittings.  Barbara is an excellent story-teller as you’ll soon find out if you decide to read it yourself.

My Rating:    ****

A Surprise That Made Me Cry

Photo Credit: Cool Insights blog

Photo Credit: Cool Insights blog

Today I planned to get started on the outline for the sequel to Through The Eyes Of Grace. It’s been hard to think about starting because my Mom is no longer here for me to ask questions. My husband gave me good advice to go into the day prepared to keep a guard on my emotions. He knows this isn’t easy for me, but preparing myself through prayer ahead of time usually provides the will-power to fight being overcome with emotions. I listened to his advice and was doing well until I came up to something I needed to know. Whenever this happened before, I would call Mom, ask the question, get the answer and get right back to my research.

Ugh!

I managed to avoid the tears by talking to myself and keeping my focus on what I needed to do, not on how I was feeling. I had an idea to find the answer to my question;  I would sign onto my Ancestry.com account where I had set up our family tree years ago with my Mom when we were planning a huge family reunion. I was proud of myself for coming up with such a practical solution to what could have been an emotional meltdown.

I spoke too soon. Ugh, again!

Because Mom passed away in December, I hadn’t signed onto Ancestry.com since before then. I wasn’t prepared to see what was waiting for me; Mom was last on the site October 20, 2012, only 7 weeks before she died. She had been working diligently to get me the information she knew I would need for my next book. She had sent me all kinds of updates for me to approve in order to add them to my site. I was overcome with the emotions I had been avoiding. They rushed over me like a flood, but this time they weren’t tears of overwhelming sadness, but tears of gratefulness for a Mom who cared for me and anticipated my need for her help, tears of thankfulness for a God who orchestrated the timing for me to discover this right when I needed it most, and unbelievable humility in realizing how much my God and my Mom love and care for me, even in the smallest of details.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much else done on my book today, but I no longer feel alone in my research. God is my ever-present help in my time of need, and He’s proven that He even cares about the research I’m doing. I am confident He will walk with me down this lonely road and help me do what I wouldn’t be able to do in my own strength. What a God I serve.

When was the last time you sensed God provide for you in ways you never expected or saw coming? How did it affect you? I would love to hear.

I’ve Received The Liebster Blog Award

liebster-award1-1

Rosanna of Writing Prompts From Life nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award, and I am so grateful to her and happily accept the nomination. ‘Liebster’  is a German word that means “beloved.” The origins of the Liebster Blog Award are shrouded in mystery, but what is clear is that the award is given to up and coming bloggers.  Just like most awards, the purpose of the Liebster Blog Award is to inspire bloggers.

When a blogger accepts the award, the blogger has to:

  • 11 facts about her/his self
  • Answer 11 questions from your nominator
  • Nominate 11 blogs with under 200 followers
  • Leave 11 questions for the nominees to answer

So, in accepting the award, I hereby list 11 facts about myself:

  1. I am a native Floridian.
  2. I have been journaling my life since 1989, and I’m on my 56th volume.
  3. I have a rose garden that grows in pots, but my favorite flower to grow is the dahlia.
  4. I host another blog called Route 66 Club devoted to helping others read the the Bible on a daily basis.
  5. I am a registered Creek Indian–my maternal grandfather was listed in the Dawes Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes in OK in the late 1800’s.
  6. My favorite movie is You’ve Got Mail.
  7. I love Starbucks Cappuccinos and order them extra hot and wet (meaning less foam and more steamed nonfat milk) 🙂
  8. I had the privilege of homeschooling all three of our children for most of their 13 years of education.
  9. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, who means more to me than anyone else in my life.
  10. A perfect day would be spending it with Tom on the beach listening to the waves break on the shore.
  11. I’m addicted to Words With Friends.

Now for the 11 questions from Rosanna:

  1. What is the best advice you can give bloggers?  Write what’s on your heart and be consistent with your theme. And connect with other bloggers who write to the same audience. This will not only help you grow in your craft, but it will provide you with the support and encouragement you need when you’re tempted to quit.
  2. What would you like to do to make your life more exciting? I’m not sure there is anything my life is lacking in regard to excitement. We are in the process of seeing another life-long dream come true, but I can’t share what it is just yet. 🙂
  3. How often do you engage in a hobby or activity that makes you happy? Daily. My passion is writing. I’ve done it for years privately in my journals, and now God has blessed me with three blogs for which I host and write: The Romantic Vineyard, Debi Gray Walter Author, and Route 66 Club.
  4. List 3 blessings you’ve been gifted with during the day. Health, A husband who loves me, and friendship.
  5. What are your best assets? The grace I’ve been given through Christ, and a heart that longs to please Him in all things. Next would be my faithful husband of 34 years, who is also my best friend in this life.
  6. Why is the world a better place because you live in it? Oh my, I don’t think it’s my place to answer this question. I’ll wait until the day when hopefully I’ll hear my Heavenly Father say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” The Bible says to let another praise you and not your own mouth–enough said!
  7. How are you today? Content.
  8. How can you show love for yourself today? I do this without thinking. It’s love for others that I must work on. 
  9. Have you given yourself a pat on the back for a job or chore that you did well? Yes, finishing and publishing Through The Eyes Of Grace. A 25 year dream come true!
  10. How does winning this award make you feel? Grateful.
  11. What can you do today to make yourself feel better? Start a regular exercise plan. I took out my yoga mat this morning and I’m hoping to give it a go once again!

Now it’s my turn to nominate 9 bloggers for this award. I couldn’t come up with 11 blogs to nominate! But the following are excellent!

  1. Life On The Lighter Side
  2. NonGMO Journal
  3. Growing Up Triplets
  4. Never Once Have I Ever Walked Alone
  5. All Of Grace
  6. Gluten Free With Julie B
  7. The Walter Family
  8. Gina Lillycrop Designs
  9. Morning By Morning

Below are my 11 questions I would ask the above bloggers to answer:

  1. What motivated you to start your blog?
  2. What is your favorite post you’ve written? Why?
  3. Who is your greatest support in doing what you do?
  4. If you had a day completely to yourself with no responsibilities, what would you do?
  5. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
  6. What is a favorite memory you have from one of your grandparents?
  7. If you were to write your auto-biography what would the title be?
  8. Do you blog mostly for yourself or for your audience?
  9. Do you keep a journal? Why or why not?
  10. What is the best advice you can give to someone who is just starting to blog?
  11. List three blessings for which you are grateful to God?

Now that was fun. I can’t wait to let my blogger friends know about their nomination. When you write your post, please come back and link-up to this post. That way we’ll all get to read your responses. Have a blessed day!

Touchstones of the Heart

You've got mail bookstore

Touchstones are the parts of movies, books or songs that strike a chord in our lives to which we can relate. This is why we have favorites.

My favorite movie is You’ve Got Mail because I can relate to Kathleen Kelly in so many ways.

  • She has a little bookstore where the people have shopped for years. They loved her mother and the way she entered into the lives of her customers. (My parents had a drug store where they entered into the lives of their customers with compassion and care.)
  • She love books and writing. (I love books and writing!)
  • She was fascinated by the ability to connect with people on the internet she had never met in person. (I marvel at this as well.)

These are just a few of my favorite parts. 🙂

This leads to my next question…

Question #20 – What books, movies or songs provide touchstones to your life? What are the connections?

Something To Ponder

Photo Credit: jordipostales on Flickr

Photo Credit: jordipostales on Flickr

Today would have been Grace’s 124th birthday. And more people know her story and care about what happens to her next than she ever could have imagined. I hear it all the time…when are you going to write the next book? My plans are to begin soon. Since my mother passed away I have found much inspiration from her boxes of genealogy research papers. Here are few things I’ve found:

  • a picture of one of William and Grace’s sons when he was 2. She had it mounted under a clear paper weight. It is fading now, but I would love to try and get it restored.
  • Uncle Bud’s family bible complete with his handwriting marking the births, marriages and deaths of family members.
  • Grace’s journal of a trip she and William took out west.
  • A turquoise and silver indian belt.
  • Mary Elizabeth Ishmael’s crystal candy dish.
  • A tiny porcelain cup that Sarah Kirwin gave to Grace when she was 12.

It has been exciting to discover these items, but it comes with such sadness. I can no longer call my mom for answers to questions I have. I’m on my own when it comes to writing book two. It won’t be the same. I will miss Mom with each page I write, but knowing she read and enjoyed Through The Eyes Of Grace before she passed away thrills my heart! And to think…she’s in Heaven with my grandmother telling her all about it.

Now that is something to ponder, isn’t it?

From My Journal

From time to time, I’m going to share with you some of my personal journey as I record in my journal. My hope is that this will help you as God is helping me, and that it might encourage you to start journaling your own thoughts and prayers.

Journal entry from October 15th:

My Bible verse for today is Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers.”

Thank you, Father, for Your faithfulness to keep Your promises. You promise and You never forget. We benefit from the promise You made to Abraham thousands of years ago. I’m sure I’m benefitting from promises You  made to my grandmother–Grace Stella–and my great-grandfather–“Uncle Bud” Oswalt. Thank You.

Thank You for choosing to place Your love on me and on my children. I believe and pray my grandchildren will grow to love You as well. Set Your seal upon their heart, Lord. May they learn of Your grace at an early age. I love You and can’t imagine my life apart from Your love. Thank You that I will never know.

___________________________________________

Do you keep a journal? If so, what is God currently saying to you? If not, have you considered the blessing this would be for your family in the years to come?

All I Can Say Is…Wow!

Stella Grace at 4 months

This week I am more and more aware of God’s kindness to have brought me this far in the writing process. I have heard from dozens of people as they’ve read Through The Eyes Of Grace, and it brings tears to my eyes. Grace’s story is affecting others for good. I have heard moms tell me they are going to have their daughters read my book in hopes of inspiring them to know their own grandparent’s stories. I have had people stop me to tell me their story of regret towards their parents or grandparents who are no longer around to ask. I have even had some tell me of their dream to write a similar story to honor their family legacy.

All I can say is, Wow!

God is taking my little mite and using it for His purposes. If you’ve read my book and found it enjoyable, would you take time to write a review on Amazon about it for me? Your words will help others decide if they would enjoy it as well.

I must say that what I love most is hearing from you. Your words of encouragement are washing away years of disbelief that I could ever accomplish such a feat. Now that I have, the temptation is even greater to discount my work, which I’m sure saddens the Lord who is the One who enabled me to do it in the first place. I want to be quick to give Him the glory for the big picture story of His grace that He weaves into each of our lives.

How has your family impacted your appreciation of God’s grace at work in you?

Prologue Part Two

Photo Credit: http://www.ehow.com

Today I’m sharing the last part of my book’s Prologue. I pray it will draw you to want to read more. In case you missed the first half you can read it here.

I was trapped.  As I plopped into the black leather seat, something crunched beneath me.  It was the gift I had seen on the table! I couldn’t deal with it, so I tossed it aside, not interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.

Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you.  Don’t you want to open it?”

“Um, no! Not now.”

“Why on earth not?”

“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”

“Gracelyn, I insist.  The giver may be at the dinner.  You’ll want to be sure to thank them.  I really think it best to open it now.”

Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception.  I had learned it was best to do as she said.  Picking up the gift I slowly ripped the paper away, revealing a stained wooden box smelling much like the old church we had just left.  Lifting the lid I discovered a worn out leather journal.

“What’s this?” I asked casually, hoping my excitement didn’t show.

“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama.  See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”

As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor.  I picked it up to find Big Mama’s handwriting addressed to me.  The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.

“M-Mama, you read it.”  She took the slip of paper from my hand.

Dear Gracelyn,

I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story.  I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends.  You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself.  It is my prayer that as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong.  Your life is not your own to live as you want.  I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone.  Read it well and remember although life is brief, love is forever.

Affectionately,

Big Mama

I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help.  Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.

As we filed out of the limo and gathered around Big Mama’s grave, the familiar hymn began to play once more.  This time my voice sang through the tears to the grandmother I loved.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

My grandmother had offered me her hand with this gift, allowing me to see and learn about life through her eyes.  That night, alone in my room I opened the musty journal and began to read.

Teasing Comes Naturally, I’m Afraid

Uncle Billy teasing Norah

Yes, I’m prone to teasing, ask my family. I get it naturally from my brother who is the master! But I’ve learned my brother is a lot like my grandfather who died when I was only 4. I don’t remember much about him, except that he loved his eggs scrambled in a pan with hot sausage served over a bed of grits. And you know what? This is how I like breakfast as well. He also smoked a pipe and would let me help him light it whenever I was around. I still love the scent of pipe tobacco, I guess because it brings back fond childhood memories.

So what does teasing have to do with today’s post? I want to “tease” you with the first half of the Prologue to my soon-to-be published book. I’m hoping it will entice you to want to read more. All good stories have a strong hook–read the following and let me know if I’ve managed to tease you for more! If so, you’ll have to wait another week to read the rest.

Prologue

June 1979

With a nervous exhale I opened the heavy door.  The clock tower struck one, two…fading away as the door closed behind me.  The foyer was dark and smelled of centuries-old stories, never to be told.  A hush followed each group of well-meaning guests as they entered the sanctuary.  I was next.  My hands were clammy; I felt nauseous.  I wasn’t ready to see…her, not in this way.  My eyes were darting back and forth, desperately searching for something when I saw it; right in the middle of the large oak table was a gift wrapped in lavender and lace.  As my eyes adjusted, I noticed my name scribbled on the card; who on earth? I couldn’t believe…

“Miss?” The usher interrupted my questions with his extended arm.  I supposed it was his job to escort me to where the rest of the family were seated.

My knees threatened to buckle under me as we started down the aisle.  How often I had come to this church with Big Mama.  She was a founding member and loved it dearly.  And if she had anything to say about it, I would love it too.

As I passed one pew I expected to see Mr. Pemberton stand and greet me with a butterscotch candy from his white suit pocket.  He always sat in the back, but not today; Mr. Pemberton was long gone, and now Big Mama was too–nothing would be the same.

“Greetings, friends! On behalf of the family of Grace Stella Oswalt, I would like to say thank you for coming to show your respects to such a God-fearing woman.”

I made it to the family pew just in time.  Sniffles sounded in unison as I held my breath trying not to join in.  I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop.  Mama knowingly slipped a handkerchief in my hand as the preacher continued.

“Grace, wife of the late William Marion Oswalt, was the mother of six but is survived only by her daughter, Claire; nine grandchildren and many, many great-grandchildren…”

Six children? I didn’t know Big Mama had six children.  I knew my Uncle Vic and Aunt Ruby.  What happened to the others?

“Please stand as we sing Grace’s favorite hymn on page 56 of your hymnals.”

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…

What else didn’t I know? For a moment I felt a deep sadness for the stories that would be buried with her.

…I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.

It was true.  Big Mama loved this hymn.  When I was little she would often play it on her piano as I sat next to her on the bench.  Her voice would crack, and I would sing off key, but the words never lost their meaning for her.  When we got to the third verse, she always seemed caught up in another world.

…through many dangers toils and snares.  I have already come.  Twas grace hath brought me safe thus far.  And grace twill lead me home.

Glancing at my watch, I hoped it was almost over.

“The family would like to invite you to join them graveside following this service, and then for dinner in the church social hall,” the pastor announced.

What? Another service and dinner, too? I hadn’t been to many funerals in my nineteen years, and this was the first in our family.  It was as painful as I feared it would be.

My Mom knew what I was thinking without a word.  Heaviness pressed against me; the back door offered my first chance to escape.  I jumped to my feet ready to be the first one out the back, but a tall, sliver of a man appeared.  I was unaware of the tradition–family is always escorted out separately.  He said nothing, only pointed with his opened palm towards the side door.  I had missed my chance and silently followed Mama to a waiting limousine.

 

Officially Yours

It has been mine for the past 25 years. Ten  years ago I began the process of making it yours, and in the Fall of 2012 it will be official – officially yours that is.

I have prayed, cried, and labored over this project. I have gone from being a novice writer to a full-time writer of a blog, our neighborhood newsletter, and my own journals. The project of which I speak is my first novel titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace, and is based on the life of my grandmother. The story takes place in Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century. Oklahoma was called Indian Territory then, and is still home to hundreds of Native Americans today. I didn’t know her story until after she died when I was 19. I was her youngest grandchild, and how I wished I could have heard these stories from her first-hand. What lessons I could have learned from her, but at 19 I was too young to appreciate the value of asking good questions.

My Mom was her youngest daughter. Of my grandmother’s six children she outlived all of them except for her. My hope is that her story will compel you to ask good questions of your own parents and/or grandparents. My Mom says that every time someone dies a library of information is buried with them. Sadly, this is true. Unless we ask and remember their stories will be gone in one or two generations. What a gift to know those stories and pass them onto your children and grandchildren.

I’ve provided at the back of the book a list of great questions to help you get started in discovering your own family history. We all have a story, but we may not know all the details. My prayer is that you will not only enjoy reading my book, but that you will find yourself drawn to talk to loved ones about it.

Through The Eyes Of Grace is my gift to you.

If you are interested in reserving a copy of my book, simply sign up to receive my blog posts by e-mail (see right column). This will guarantee you’ll be one of the firsts to hear of it’s release. 

Blessings to you and yours,

Debi